While children around the city have happily stored away their schoolbooks, bags and notebooks, many teachers and parents are scheming for ways to keep young people reading over the summer. Some schools distribute reading lists and many libraries host reading contests, with kids earning prizes for the number of books read. But parents have a crucial role to play in encouraging their offspring to read, particularly in the preteen and teen years when the pull of video games, social media sites and hanging out with friends tends to dominate the day.
To help your older children get engrossed in reading, here are three suggestions for books that will challenge and entertain them this summer.
Prisoners in the Palace (Chronicle Books, $18.99)
by Michaela MacColl – Ages 12-15
Set in 1836, the year before the young Queen Victoria made her ascent to the throne, this novel follows Liza, the daughter of a wealthy family, who is left penniless after the death of her parents. Thanks to her education, she lands a position as the head maid of a 16-year-old princess named Victoria. She soon discovers that life inside the royal household is not all that it appears. Scandals lie underfoot, including a plot to prevent Victoria from becoming the next Queen of England. Liza quickly realizes that she is in a position to intercede and launches herself into court politics in order to help the future monarch. Author MacColl’s excellent research on 19th century England allows her to skillfully recreate the period and she provides readers with a lesser-known version of Queen Victoria as a young, lively and frivolous girl, a striking contrast to the mournful and stoic image most of us have of her.
Operation Red Jericho (Random House, $11.50)
by Joshua Mowll – Ages 10-14
Children who love a good adventure story with plenty of mystery and intrigue will enjoy Operation Red Jericho. The book takes readers back to the years immediately following World War II when two teenagers, Doug and Rebecca, are separated from their parents (who mysteriously vanish while on a research mission). The teens are adopted by their uncle, who brings them aboard his ship, which is full of hidden nooks and crannies. While exploring some forbidden areas, the two discover that their uncle may know more about the disappearance of their parents that he is letting on. It all adds up to a gripping adventure story that thunders along at a rapid pace. The book is filled with diagrams, maps, newspaper articles and diary entries, giving it the authentic feel of being pieced together from old artifacts. But more than anything, readers will be inspired by the moxie of Rebecca and Doug, two charming and bright characters who may even inspire readers to look for adventures of their own.
When You Reach Me (Yearling Books, $7.99)
by Rebecca Stead – Ages 10–14
Winner of a Newberry award (the most distinguished prize in American children’s literature) this novel introduces readers to life in New York in the 1970s. The main character, Miranda, is a latch-key kid growing up in an urban environment. She struggles to help her divorced mother win the prize money from a popular TV show while trying to understand why she and her best friend Sal have had a falling out. Then Miranda begins to receive mysterious notes from a stranger who seems able to predict the future. From there, the novel moves away from being simply a story of the emotional growing pains of a young adolescent and instead delves into time travel and fantastic adventures. It’s an artful mix of real and imaginary worlds and one that has clearly resonated with readers: the book was on several bestseller lists when it came out. The story challenges readers to consider what they might learn, both about themselves and the world, if time travel were possible.